image - inbound links

Where Are Your Inbound Links?

Part One: What Are Inbound Links And How To Find Them

image - inbound linksLet’s talk about inbound links, what they are and what to do with them. This post is the first of a two-part series. Today we’ll take a look at exactly what inbound links are and how to find them. Later, in part two, we’ll look at what we can do with that information and how to acquire more of the same.

What Are Inbound Links

One-way Links

One way links are exactly that – an inbound link to your main blog URL or to an internal page/post within your blog. Ultimately, it would seem, the right one-way links can have some pretty positive benefits when it comes to the major search engines. For example, what would happen to a post on your blog if The Huffington Post or The Washington Post linked to it? That would be pretty powerful, wouldn’t it?

Reciprocal Linking

Reciprocal linking can be a good situation but almost leaves a bad taste in the mouth of old school bloggers. By that I mean, at first thought, I think of reciprocal linking as the old gray-hat, and now useless, “you link to me and I’ll link back” SEO strategy. Obviously, that no longer works, if it ever did, and is a complete waste of time. I’m amazed to still find those amateurish offers in my inbox, before I report them as spam.

Anyway, back on track; reciprocal linking is not always shady or useless. Trackbacks, for example; many bloggers don’t allow trackbacks at all because they tend to be mostly spam but allowing legitimate trackbacks doesn’t necessarily hurt your blog. By that, I mean, the notion that a trackback will “cancel out” an authoritive inbound link is ridiculous.

Another form of reciprocal linking that comes to mind is that which simply happens naturally. Take Basic Blog Tips for example. Our sites are similar, Ileane is a friend and we run the same blogging circles. There are, naturally, a handful of links in both directions on our blogs. There’s nothing wrong with that and both blogs benefit from the natural linking. In fact, that’s what Google has been saying for years is considered proper linking.

Three-way Linking

Here’s where we move into the realm of gray, and even black hat tactics and I highly suggest you avoid three-way linking schemes altogether. This was a very common practice for those of us into niche blogging and niche sites such as what were called AdSense sites. I say “were” called because Panda killed them off last year, rightfully, even though a few haven’t realized they are dead yet.

Here’s how it worked… I would build a site on, say, hair tonics, for example. Then I would message one of my niche blogging buddies and see if they had a domain in the beauty supply or hair care niche. Anything related to the niche would work and, in return, I would link to something of theirs from yet another niche blog. That’s three-way linking and, simply put, is a bad idea. Google isn’t new at this and can, and will, find those desperate attempts at cheating the system and you just might end up paying a major price for it.

I recommend natural link building and concentrate on building relationships and using social media as much as possible. Don’t waste valuable time and energy trying to cheat a system that changes without notice and can stay two or three plays ahead of you at any given time. It’s like playing chess with a supercomputer that will destroy your blog when it beats you; not a good idea.

Seek And Search Out Those Links

There are a number of ways we can determine where our inbound links originate and it’s not a bad idea to record those that you find. Why on Earth would you record something like that? Well, it’s helpful to know who’s linking to you, why they’re linking to you and how it’s helping your status in the search engine heavens. We’ll get into what to do with this information in part two next week but, first, let’s look at a few free and simple tools to help discover these all important inbound links.

Google Wants To Help

No single source will help you determine where your incoming link juice is coming from than the Big G its self. Google has a couple of free online tools that will lay it all out on the table for you, so to speak.

  1. First, we have simple Google Analytics. If you’re not using Google Analytics I would highly recommend you start right away. The information gained from it Google’s data and statistics is invaluable and it’s not something to shy away from. I’ve actually read where people think it’s too much information and just a waste of time. I say, look where they’re site sits on Google and don’t listen to a word of it.
    Google Analytics Referrals
  2. The second free Google resource is, of course, Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools, just like Google Analytics, is so much more than a place to see incoming link juice but it is one of the best places to see who’s linking out to you.
    Webmaster Tools Links

Remember Bing?

The newest large search monster, Bing, has its own Webmaster Tools and you can find backlinks there as well. I recommend at least signing onto Bing Webmaster Tools and seeing what it can do for you.
image - Bing Webmaster Tools

Alexa Links

Alexa uses different criteria for what counts as an inbound link than Google does. Alexa allows only one link per domain. Have 10,000 inbound links from Twitter? To Alexa, you just have one. Finding those inbound links according to Alexa is a simple matter. Just replace my site with yours in the following URL:
http://www.alexa.com/site/linksin/hotblogtips.com

What’s Next?

Now that we understand the different incoming links and how to find them, next week in Part two we will discuss what we can do with this valuable information. Until then, what methods do you use to find your backlinks? How important are those links? What do you do with them, if anything?

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  • saha

    Quite informative guide about inbound links. And Google analytics is really helpful. Thanks for this guide.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Thank you Saha :)

  • John

    Determining where your inbound links originated is good SEO practice. Once you know where your links are coming from you can work on getting more incoming link juice from that source. Good list of some effective free resources to find inbound links.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Absolutely John, that’s exactly the kind of thing we’re going to be addressing in part 2 next week. Thanks.

  • Amrik

    Thanks brian for the awesome article. Yes you are right. It’s important for us to have incoming links from around the internet pointing back to our blogs and websites.

    I am waiting for the Part two :)

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Thanks Amrik, it’s already written but these comments help me tweak it a little.

  • Amit Shaw

    Hi Brian,
    Nice Guide on Inbound Links. I always use Google Webmaster to check inbound links.

    Amit Shaw

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Hi Amit, Google’s Webmaster Tools is one of those things that’s so cool it’s hard to believe it’s free.

  • ajmal

    Excellent information about Inbound links and reefers tracking. Sure this well definitely help me in blogging

  • DiTesco

    These are great tools that you provided here to allow us in “finding” those precious links from. Aside from these tools, I actually do use a lot of others such as SEMRush, LongTailPro, MS and a few others. The reason for this is not all of them provide the information I usually need, such as anchor text, PR, follow, etc. All together though the tools you have are more than enough and I agree with you that the ore “natural” inbound links are the better.

    BTW, you missed the “link wheel”, LOL. What do you think about that?

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Hi DiTesco, the link wheel seems a lot like three-way linking (and then some) but in theory it’s spot on. When sites link to my content, a RoundUp Post post for example, I try to point a few links at that URL as well. It helps everyone involved.

      I agree with you on some of the more advanced tools. I’m trying to show the free ones with this post but, you’re right, seeing all the factors on one page is a huge help.

  • Irfan

    Lets see if you have any solution for it: I always have used webmaster tool to check my blogs inbound link but, recently, few month back webmaster tool have stopped showing the link structure of my blog. I don’t know what to do now to get it back.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      I’m no expert at Webmaster Tools Irfan but I just go to “Your site on the web” and then “Links to your site.” Now one time in Google’s Analytics I got to messing around with the “Add a dashboard” option and had a tough time getting things back to normal. I wonder if something like that did’t happen in Webmaster Tools.

  • Atish

    Inbound links are simply called backlinks and backlinks works as the number of votes for our site. more votes from quality sites more benefit. thanks for the post. link exchange is good in similar niche only.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Nice way to simplify it Atish. Of course, the term “Backlink” infers there is a link to start with so not every inbound link will be a backlink.

    • Vishnudath

      Atish i Agree with you. inbound links are simply called back links and the best way to check them is webmaster tools

  • Lennart Heleander

    Google offers tools to help you very much, but not to just look at the numbers without testing other tools as well, Alexa and Yahoo o pretty good too.

  • richard

    Good article on inbound links. I recommend staying away from the gray hat and black hat tactics. It’s just not a good idea as you can easily get punished by google. Stick to writing sticky content that people might share and build up links through old fashioned promoting.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      I completely agree Richard.

  • JamesW

    Great post Brian, I use mostly Google webmaster tools and Ahrefs, you can use it for free with small number of option and you can subscribe if you want better tools, but it’s good yahoo site explorer alternative.
    And It’s amazing that people still send emails for link exchange techniques, i get them too,maybe people just don’t know that it’s the old and useless way of getting better rankings.
    For social media, I can say that it helped me rank higher in Google faster than with blog commenting, maybe there is something in that.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      I know James, it makes you wonder what dark cave they’re hanging out in. It hasn’t been a good idea in a very long time. I was just actually invited to a Linkedin group that’s there to exchange links.

  • Sean R. Nicholson

    Completely agree with you about 3-way links. I was always skeptical of those who touted it as a practice and the Panda update clarified Google’s stance on it!

    Great article and tips, especially leveraging the tools that Google gives us.

    Cheers!

    –Sean

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Thanks Sean, the three-way linking scheme showed up as an attempt to “fool” Google and that’s never a good idea, not when we’re risking our site’s future.

  • Astro Gremlin

    Brian, I use these tools to look at incoming links and your advice is right on: very much worth paying attention to. It’s surprising how some links I had forgotten are seen as the most valuable ones pointing to my site. Sites ending in .edu and .gov carry a lot of weight.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      That’s true Astro and there are a few things we can do ro help them along. We’ll get into that in a few days.

  • Navin kunwar

    thanks for the post, using webmasters is the easy and great way to track in-bounded links.

  • Richard

    I currently use the Alexa toolbar to check my back links, but I never knew my Google Analytics had the capability to do that. I’ve tried to use the Webmaster Tools but have had some issues in the past so I’ll definitely give Google another shot with their Analytics feature seeing as how I’m most concerned with what back links they’re seeing and how they’re ranking me because of it.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Hi Richard, Alexa is a good source to use but it doesn’t tell the complete story since they have different ideas on what an inbound link is.

  • ICCIEV

    Hi Brian,

    That was an amazing overview about inbound links, liked the tips on how to find from where your most inbound links coming from. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Thanks Qasim :)

  • http://basicblogtips.com Ileane

    Hi Brian, great information you provided here and I appreciate the shout out too!
    I’m starting to explore Google Webmaster tools a whole lot more these days and I think Google is making it easier for us to understand by redesigning the layout and making a connection with Google Analytics. I haven’t explored Bing in a while but it’s on my to do list, thanks for the reminder.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Thanks Ileane, my pleasure and I appreciate you checking it out. :)

  • http://www.aha-now.com/ Harleena Singh

    Informative post Brian!

    I loved the information shared, which is truly an eye opener for me in many aspects! Though I do use inbound links, but haven’t really gone with all the things you mentioned, as I never really knew you could do so much with it.

    While I do use the Google Webmasters Tools, Bing surely seems something worth checking out.

    Thanks for sharing a wonderful post :)

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Thanks Harleena, Bing is still small potatoes compared to Google but there’s a few things there worth a look.

  • Jens P. Berget

    Hi Brian,

    I don’t do much checking up on my inbound links, even though I know I should. I’ve been thinking about creating a solid link strategy for a while, especially when it comes to social bookmarks. It seems that using social bookmarks a lot more is easy and not so time consuming and it will help us get a lot more inbound links. But, there’s the thing between do-follow and no-follow as well, and even though I don’t give that distinction much focus either, I’ve heard things like there’s no reason to have a no-follow inbound link to your blog, other than for direct traffic, because search engines don’t put any value on no-follow links?

    Thanks a lot for sharing the awesome information.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Hi Jens, no-follow links are worth having and we still benefit from them. I’ll try to include that issue in part two, thanks.

  • Becca

    I’m not really familiar how to check inbound link. Excellent tips indeed! I really love to learn from the well experience one. I will always keep that in mind..

  • Ma.Dharess

    Hi Brian! This is very informative post…Anyway, I think sometimes it is also important to check on the inbound links…Thanks a lot for sharing this to us and I am sure I have elarned a lot too…

  • Anonymous (Read Comment Policy)

    Wow there’s alot of info to take in there. I’m fairly new to seo and I have quite abit of 3 way linking in place I didn’t realise it would do more harm than good seo is complicated! Thanks for the advice I think I had better remove them and come up with another plan but as you said I’m sure google will be a step ahead of me in whatever I decide to do.

  • abhinav

    Really its very informative and valuable info for my blog thank you so much for sharing wonderful post.

  • sean

    Brian-

    Great article. Can’t wait for part two. Nonetheless I really like your unique way of using some of the google webmaster tools and analytical tools to use to help find some quality backlinks.

    thanks

    sean

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Thanks Sean, part two is coming soon.

      • sean

        Look forward to it. Thanks again.

        sean

  • Ciaran

    Some nice tips here – agree with your point regarding Google Analytics – if you know this tool/report inside out – then no need for anything else…everything you need is here. We need to spend more time there!! Thanks for the post!

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      There certainly is a lot of information available with Google Analytics Ciaran, probably a lot more than I even know about at this point.

  • Shubham

    One-way Links contributed the most in increasing the Domain authority. I wish I could get a back link from Microsoft :P

    I think open Site explorer is the best software to check backlinks. Its very accurate and sometimes I use Google Webmaster to check my inbound links.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Are you referring to Yahoo Site Explorer Shubham? Because I believe they are Bing Webmaster Tools now.

  • Bishwajeet

    Inbound links helps you to increase your internal linking and PR of the inner pages which in turn will help you in better SEO. So, it’s all connected. Also, better inbound linking means Google can crawl your old posts quite easily and your posts will rank quite higher.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      You’re right Bishwajeet, internal linking is very important. I think that’s what you’re saying.

  • Richard

    Nice article. It’s good not to manipulate google with bad linking schemes. There are plenty of places to find great backlinks. Blogging and posting articles with links are among the best ways.

  • Sire

    What can I say Brian, this is one of the best posts I’ve read on linking. Obviously the best links to get are the one way links which is why you should always strive to write the best possible content. Failing to do that would certainly minimize those treasured links.

    I always get emails asking to exchange links but I ignore them or send them to my directory where they are free to add their links. The beauty about that directory is that for their link to be accepted they need to link to Wassup. Nothing unusual you say and you would be right except that that directory is on another domain so they’re all one way links ;)

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Oh no, I stopped replying to comments just before I got a compliment. Thanks Sire. :) Is three weeks too late? lol Sorry for the delay.

  • http://www.imjustsharing.com Mitch Mitchell

    You know, I think I need a tutorial on Webmaster Tools because supposedly none of my accounts are hooked up with it, even though I have Google Analytics on all my sites and the sites of folks I track.

    As far as the links themselves, I turn down those same folks all the time but I’ve never thought about trying to report any of them as spam. Truthfully, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about links, which may be a tactical flaw, but I have so much other stuff going on.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      A Webmaster Tools tutorial isn’t a bad idea Mitch, that would make a great video on our YouTube channel. I just need to find an expert will to record one.

  • sai krishna

    normally i will use alexa links count to check how many links i have .. i don’t know about this sites links option in google webmaster tools . Thanks for let me know about this :)

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Hi Sai, the only problem with Alexa is they count just one link per domain so it’s a little tough to get the full story.

  • Charles Daniels

    One of the simple joys of my day is logging into my Google Webmaster account and seeing if any new domains are linking to my sites. It probably means I need to get out more, but what can you do.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Hi neighbor, let me know if you see Hot Blog Tips in your referral report. It would be pretty cool if our readers gained a little traffic from their comments here.

  • Ashley Ward

    I actually don’t know on how to find any inbound links and thanks a lot for sharing this to us. It is a great pleasure to know this information and now I know I will probably know it. Thanks a lot!

  • Alex

    When checking inbound links I use a programme called Majestic SEO, it does cost money but I find it is much more accurate than Google Webmaster Tools. However I’m yet to find software that is 100% accurate.

  • Asma Khan

    Wow, so many ways I can build inbound links.
    “Submit your site to free directories”… but just like how your latest post explains, this trick may not work as effectively now.

  • sooreneccs

    INBOUND links
    INCREASES your
    INCOMING traffic if done
    IN the correct way, for
    INEXPERIENCED beginner like me
    INCREDIBLY
    INFORMATIVE post Brian,thanks!
    INTERESTED to learn part 2!

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      That’s a lot of IN’s CCS, and poetic too. Thanks for that. :)

  • Joseph

    Great post!! I know for me I use Google to find out my competition. Who knows best than the almighty Google right? Also I want to say this about Bing….If you are not using their webmaster tools you are missing out. I ran a test on one of my websites and after just a week went from no rankings in Bing to having multiple pages now being ranked. Now I am sure this was done by the correct keyword research but still goes to prove that for now you can get a lot of love from Bing AND Yahoo(as they have combined forces) just for participating in their webmaster tools. Try it out and let us know what happens

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Thanks for that Bing tip Joseph, that’s great stuff! I pinned your comment on Pinterest and included a link to your site. You can see it here: http://pinterest.com/pin/280208408035607454/

  • Stefan

    Really informative. I agree that Google analytics is really helpful. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for part two.

  • lunaticg

    Hi Brian.
    Found your blog via bloggers.com.
    A very good article about inbound link, it help me understand which one that I can do and which one that I must avoid. Google has change a lots nowadays and any help on explaining what Google want are really appreciated.

  • Berlin

    Good article on inbound links. I recommend staying away from the gray hat and black hat tactics. It’s just not a good idea as you can easily get punished by Google.

  • Radhitya

    Hello Brian,

    At least once a week I check my inbound links and my favorite tools is Google’s Webmaster. I agree with you, natural link building is the best way to get backlinks and I think it’s time to leave the gray hat tactics.

  • Ferb

    I really understand them and instead of Google’s Webmaster, now I know there is also Bing’s Webmaster that I haven’t known and with the ALEXA url I got one more tip from it which is to replace the url in the end of domain and place our domain name in their will also know the sites that are linking into.

    Thanks – Ferb

  • Raquel

    Thanks a very informative Article.I am new about blogging,and I need to learn more what is about linking. This is very helpful for me to understand thing.Keep it up and post more Article.

  • Marcelina Hardy

    Awesome info! Link love is what Google loves to see. If a high and mighty page ranking website links to you, Google rewards you. The more you have the more Google loves you.

    Thanks for clarifying the link exchange situation. I had someone try to do a link exchange with me instead of payment for web content. Glad I turned that deal down.

    Have a super day!

  • Mark Schenkel

    Google Analytics is great tool for link discovery. So much we have created a very low cost (free if your site is small) service which does the detection for you and sends you an email when new ones are found. Check out InboundLinkAlerts from http://www.embeddedanalytics.com

    The service utilizes the Google Analytics API (we never have access to your credentials).
    – First we create a data warehouse of all your links currently in Google Analytics.
    – Then at user specified time increments (hourly, daily, etc) our servers query the last visits to your site.
    – If a new link is detected it sends you an email alert.

    There are other features as well:
    – detect if the link is public facing vs. private part of site.
    – Alert Emails contain “summary” statistics of your most recently discovered links.

    If you find Google Analytics great for link detection/analysis, but find it time consuming to constantly check the GA website, this is an ideal service.

  • Anonymous (Read Comment Policy)

    Nice article Brian. I have recently started up a simple film blog but I didn’t realise how much SEO work is required. It is fairly perplexing. This has been very helpful though. Great advice.

  • Peter Drinnan

    I have seen a lot of companies throw money as SEO “experts” with the expectation that a few tweaks to a site will make a difference. It takes good old fashioned work to get traffic. Make your content interesting. Write content for blogs. Get engaged with your target groups. When it comes to search engine rank, the more you give, the more you get.

    • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian Hawkins

      Some SEO “experts” will get you into serious trouble Peter. Thanks :)

  • John

    This was really an interesting article. Well it has been seen that inbound links are links from pages on external sites linking back to your site. Inbound links can bring new users to your site, and when the links are merit-based and freely-volunteered as an editorial choice, they’re also one of the positive signals to Google about your site’s importance. Keep up the good work.

  • http://pazer.blog.com/ Andreas Pazer

    Inbound links are unarguably the number one way to get your site boosted up the search engine results. Aside from on-page SEO, this is the second most important thing you must do to get your page to rank well in search engines.

  • Richard Gardner

    InboundLinks are increasingly becoming more important to a company’s Online Reputation Management (ORM). Along with Twitter, Facebook and all other social media sites, it is important to stay on top of what people are saying about you on other sites. So it goes without saying when links are made to your site you should take the time to check them out to see in what capacity your site is being referenced. I use several tools to find my backlinks:
    Who Links to me (www.wholinks2me.com/)
    Backlinks Checker Tool – Backlink Watch (www.backlinkwatch.com/)
    InboundLinkAlerts (http://www.embeddedanalytics.com/embedded-analytics-inboundlinkalerts.html)

  • Kate

    I use SEO Moz tool Open Site Explorer to analyze my inbound links. Also its very useful to explore competitors’ inbound links, sometimes it helps to discover some new ways of link building I didn’t use before:)

  • Fraakz

    Brain I would strongly back your opinion of avoiding three way links. A lot of SEO geeks over Fiverr build link pyramid and start minting money from new bloggers after showing them temporary success. I would say working on social media websites is the only way we could increase the traffic of our blog

  • Jean

    I got some few inbound links and with the help of this article, I got a clear understanding of what is an inbound link and what are some ways to find them. I also learn where to locate the sources of this inbound links. Thanks to the author.